I was reading a devotional by John Piper (desiringgod.org) that fits our message for this coming Sunday. If you love God and are called according to his purpose and looking to Christ for hope, then you have a most wonderful promise: Jesus prays for you, and he will never let Satan destroy your faith and bring you to ruin.
“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren.” And he said, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.” He said, “I tell you, Peter, the cock will not crow this day until you three times deny that you know me.” Luke 22:31-34
It is interesting to me that the “you” in this passage is plural in Greek, not as obvious in English. Jesus is telling Simon what Satan intends to do to him and all the disciples. What does Satan aim to do? What does “sifting like wheat” refer to in real life?
The best clue comes in the next sentence where Jesus says, “But I prayed for you that your faith may not fail” Satan aims to sift Simon and the others like wheat. Jesus aims to keep Simon’s faith from failing. So probably “sifting like wheat” means doing something to make the disciples’ faith fail.
We can imagine a picture like this: Satan has a big sieve with jagged-edged wires forming a mesh with holes shaped like faithless men and women. What he aims to do is throw people into this sieve and shake them around over these jagged edges until they are so torn and weak and desperate that they let go of their faith and fall through the sieve as faithless people, right into Satan’s company.
Faith cannot fall through the mesh. It’s the wrong shape. As long as the disciples (you and me too) hold to their faith, trusting the power and goodness of God for their hope, then they will not fall through the mesh into Satan’s hands.
Therefore, the sifting of Simon Peter and the others is Satan’s effort to destroy their faith. This remains Satan’s main goal today. It is relatively unimportant to Satan whether we are healthy or sick, rich or poor; what he wants is to sift out our faith. If he can do it by suffering, he will try that; if he can do it by wealth, he will try that.
Peter learned a good lesson that night. Some 30 years later he wrote 1 Peter 5:8-9: “Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour. Resist him firm in your faith.”
Jesus pictured Satan as a farmer shaking Christians in his sieve, trying to tear them apart from their faith. Peter pictures Satan as a lion who can devour anything but faith. The only person that can fit through Satan’s sieve is an unbeliever. The only thing that will fit down the lion’s throat is an unbeliever. This is the victory that overcomes Satan’s sieve and Satan’s throat, OUR FAITH! (1 John 5:4)
What an encouragement! Jesus is praying for us and as we hold our faith fast to the end, Satan cannot destroy us.